Effective leadership isn’t easy. A good part of effective leading is communication. While most leaders believe they communicate well, and while this may be true, it is often too infrequent and to a too-small and too-exclusive audience. Leading your team means relentlessly providing answers to the eight big questions successful leaders must answer for the people in their charge.
Where Are You Leading Us?
You might think of this question for leadership anther way. You might consider, “Who are we becoming?” In the innumerable books and articles on leadership, you will find very long lists of attributes, skills, and tasks, all of which are essential to success. Each one offers some truth about leadership. While this is true, the one thing all leaders must do is lead.
It’s your job as the leader to inform your teams where you are leading them. While growth is essential, it isn’t the most inspirational as a destination. Regardless of your leadership style, if you want your people to follow your lead, give them a clear vision of where you are going, and a goal worth pursuing. This is part of effective leadership.
Why Are We Pursuing This Path?
If you answered this question with some variation of “increase shareholder value” (leadership’s version of commission breath), you have done nothing to increase your team’s engagement or enthusiasm for your goals and mission. Not many people get fired up to make institutional investors more money.
Of course, you have a rationale for pursuing the path you have chosen, but creating the buy-in requires you explain it to those in your charge when they have questions for leadership. Is it to reach your full potential? Or do you want to capture the number one position in your industry or your market?
What Do You Expect of Me?
The Gallup on the State of the American Workplace provides data that proves shockingly low engagement numbers. As many as seven out of ten workers are not engaged at work, or they are actively disengaged. Some part of that lack of engagement comes from people on your team not knowing what you expect from them, the very question on Gallup’s survey.
You may believe that your teams know what you expect of them, but the reality for most employees is that their lack of engagement stems from a lack of their manager’s and leader’s lack of engagement. In effective leadership, you go first. You engage with your employees. Start with telling them what you need from them and why you need it.
What Will Be Different Now?
Leadership is always about transformation. Even if the only thing you need is better execution, that requires change. As much as it’s crucial that you engage hearts and minds, actuating your team’s initiative and resourcefulness, you have to provide them a strong idea about what has to change, what will be different now.
By failing to provide clarity on the new outcomes necessary, you risk your goal and mission at worst, or you take a lot longer to get there at best. You need to provide clarity about what needs to be different.
How Does My Contribution Matter?
If you want hearts and minds, you have to answer the question as to how their contribution matters to reaching your destination. They need to know where you are leading them. Every person is an integral part of the mission and necessary for success. Not everyone knows this, and some do not believe it. You have to tell them why and how their contribution matters.
People will believe their contribution matters when you tell them enough times, and when you acknowledge and express your gratitude for their effort. The more frequently, and the more public the recognition, the more it is accepted as truth. Recognition is a critical for effective leadership.
How Are We Going to Succeed?
Not everyone is going to understand the decisions you make, nor will they understand the strategy you have chosen to reach your destination. Many will wonder how you are going to succeed, something that is especially true when you set off on a new course.
The questions about how you are going to succeed are fair. Your team deserves an understanding of how and why your strategy is going to move you forward. Many leaders make the mistake of not talking about how they intend to win in the market. They may only share it with a few in leadership and management.
It is a mistake not to provide the answer to this question to everyone. Effective leadership tells the story as often as possible and to anyone and everyone.
How Will We Overcome Our Obstacles?
It never pays to ignore the obstacles in your path or to avoid the questions about the challenges you are sure to encounter along your chosen path. You—and your leadership team—owe your teams an answer and strong direction on how they are going to overcome the challenges and produce the result you expect.
Effective leadership helps remove the obstacles that prevent their teams from achieving the results they need. Sometimes that means dealing with challenges directly, and other times it requires time, attention, and money. Leaving problems unaddressed, you make success increasingly difficult.
You don’t have to wait for your teams to ask you these questions. Instead, you proactively weave them into every conversation, every communication, and every broadcast. It is impossible to over-communicate and easy to under-communicate. When you answer these questions frequently enough, you will convert.